Monday Brews – Kickstarter Shout Outs

Hi everyone. Welcome back to Boards & Barley! I hope you had a great weekend. On Mondays I normally post about the board games and beer I enjoyed over the past week or two. But today I’m going to do something different.

Why am I changing things up? Well, my budget has precluded me from backing KS projects lately. But there are several projects, designers, and publishers that I would have supported had the budget allowed it. So since I can’t back the projects I decided I can at least promote them a little! So I’m listing four current Kickstarter board game projects that I believe in. I recommend you check these out.

We’ll start with a game from a friend and local game designer Seth Van Orden…

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Stockpile

Do you have what it takes?

Stockpile, by Seth Van Orden and Nauvoo Games, is a stock market game where players have high control over manipulating the market.

In the game players are trying to maximize the market value of the stocks they own. This is done by choosing which cards you want to place face up and which cards you want to place face down. Once all players have placed they will bid over which pile they want. Eventually all players will receive a pile of cards. The cards are now reconciled by manipulating the market or dealing with a negative event.

The ultimate goal is for players to best manage the market in their favor.

This game has three days left on Kickstarter and is sitting at about 90% funding. Go help them out! $39 gets you a copy.

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DragonFlame

Burn, baby, burn!

DragonFlame was my favorite game played at the recent Protospiel-Madison. Designed by Matt Loomis and being published by Minion Games, this game is packed with amazing artwork and fun gameplay.

In DragonFlame you are a dragon and your desire is to burn down the towns! To do so players will have a hand of cards. Then they will take turns placing cards either face up or face down onto one of the castles. Once all cards are played then in turn order each player claims a castle and its cards. This determines the player order for the next round.

Players will score points for burning the villages, which they can do when they receive DragonFlame cards, or for collecting treasures and avoiding knights. After six rounds, the player with the most points wins.

Rob Lundy did the artwork for DragonFlame and it really looks amazing. I’ll be buying this game when it comes out (and my budget allows for it). Go burn some villages!

It has 17 days left and $25 gets you a copy.

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Steampunk Rally

That’s no bored European!

New publisher Roxley Games has their first Kickstarter project up and it looks fantastic!

Steampunk Rally is a race game involving great inventors from Edison and Tesla to Marie Curie and George Washington Carver. These are some of the greatest minds of the past and they figured the best way to find out who is the smartest is to have a race through the Alps. So each of them is set to build the best machine to win the race.

Using card drafting and dice placement players will build their machine and then operate in the hopes of winning the race.

The artwork for this game is astonishing and I would back it for that alone! Go grind some gears and check it out!

Steampunk Rally has 10 days to go. $49 US gets you a copy!

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New Bedford

A Whale of a Game! (Couldn’t help myself)

New Bedford is the game I most regret that I’m unable to back. I played this for the first time a year ago at BGG.Con with Chris from Dice Hate Me Games. It is a truly great and enjoyable game.

Nat Levan is the designer and you can check out his blog here: Oakleaf Games. He has written extensively about his design process for New Bedford.

In the game you are helped to develop the town of New Bedford. You can utilize resources and send ships to see to capture whales, which provide income. This is a worker placement game that is streamlined and efficient. It is really enjoyable to play. So much so that I made my own copy with the PNP files from the Kickstarter page.

Also, they do a great job dealing with what some people consider a controversial topic. I applaud Dice Hate Me for that.

Go grab your harpoon and hit the open seas!

New Bedford has 27 days left and is 50% funded. Grab a copy for $40.

Game Design: Starter Prototyping Tools

Game Design Process: Prototyping

Game Design Process: Prototyping

I recently asked myself the following question: “If I were to start over with game design, which prototyping tools would I buy to get started?” I’ve made numerous prototypes and I’ve learned what to do and what not to do. So today I present a set of prototyping tools to help get you started as a game designer.

When I got started out I didn’t want to throw a lot of money at prototypes. This was because I had no idea if the prototypes would ever actually go anywhere. I was fortunate to have a wife who used to do physical scrapbooking. So I had some tools available to me that wouldn’t have otherwise been available.

Never-the-less, there are some key tools and resources that I think every game designer can utilize to make high quality prototypes at low(ish) cost and with relative ease. For the sake of this article I will assume that you can print on photo paper (I recommend Kodak 8.5×11 – 100 sheets).

Game Prototyping Resources

First, let’s cover where to get some basic resource type things. These are my go-to retailers for these items:

Game Prototyping Tools

Things that are not mentioned above include boards, tiles, tokens, reference sheets, rulebooks, and more.  I generally use the same process to make all of those except a rulebook. I don’t typically make a rulebook.

To make my prototype components feel like high quality I purchase the following materials:

  • Matte board remnants from Hobby Lobby for super cheap. You can get a stack of about 25 12″x12″ matte boards for about $6.
  • Kodak Photo Paper (100 sheets for ~ $15)
  • Non-OEM ink for my inkjet printer via eBay. (I bought 5 full sets of ink cartridges for ~$20)
  • Glue Sticks – you’ll want to keep several on hand.

I often create artwork and then print it on the photo paper. I glue it down to the matte board. Then I break out my most highly recommended tool: The Rotary Cutter!

The Rotary Cutter

Easily worth the cost!

This has been my most-used tool for creating game prototypes.

I have a Fiskars rotary cutter similar to the one shown in the picture. You can buy it here:

Fiskars Rotary Cutter: $26.49

It isn’t the best cutter. You can pay a lot more money for better cutters. But it does exactly what I need it to do for my prototypes. Other cutter options include:

There are more options than those, so if you don’t like those options feel free to do more thorough searching.

I use this tool to cut out the components that have been printed and glued to the matter board. This cutter works well enough for that.

Punches

Fiskars Hex Punch

Other great tools for designers are punches. These are used to quickly create tokens and chits. When I create tokens and chits I usually prefer printing the artwork onto thicker stock paper so they are more rigid. 90lb or 100lb paper is usually a good weight.

There are a plethora of different punches out there, but for the sake of board games you’ll most likely be interested in circle and hex punches and corner rounders. Here are some options.

As before, go ahead and do some more searching to find the right product for you.

Sharpies

Get a bunch! It helps to have a variety of colors.

I am firmly in the Sharpie camp. I love them. They are bold, colorful, and extremely useful. Sharpies can be used to create prototype components rapidly, especially in the case where you own blank cards because you took my recommendation above.

By having a variety of Sharpies you become an unstoppable force of game design awesomeness!

I use them to create prototypes. I use them to mark up my prototypes. I use them to revise my prototypes. I use them to draw silly pictures for my kids.

Seriously, Sharpies are fantastic. I feel they are a must-have for any game designer, if for no other reason than to be able to practice your signature for the time when lovers of your games will ask for your autograph for their game box!

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I feel like this article needs more tools in it, but those are the only tools I utilize on a regular basis. Are there prototyping tools that you use regularly? Post a comment and let everyone know which prototyping tools you prefer!

Monday Brews – 11-3-14

It’s November. We’ve already woken up to snow on the ground once. It’s dark by 5pm due to the shift from daylight savings. You know what all that means? It means we’re entering peak Board Gaming Season!

When it’s too cold and too dark to go outside I recommend snuggling up to your favorite board games and grabbing a brew with your friends!

I was too wiped out from Protospiel two weekends ago to post a Monday Brews last week so this week will have a nice long list for you. I also was able to sample 5 different beers one day at a local grocery store, so the Barley list is slightly inflated. Never the less, it’s been a good two weeks in terms of Boards & Barley. Here’s what I enjoyed over the past two weeks:

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT:
Breckenridge Vanilla Porter

With a delicious addition of vanilla, this smooth brew is a delightful friend during the cold winter months. I prefer enjoying this at temperatures slightly above fridge temps so I recommend leaving it out a half hour before enjoying it.

If you’d like to know more of my opinions on the beers I enjoy, friend me on UnTappd (username EdPMarriott)!

The Boards:

Design by Matt Loomis and art by Rob Lundy!

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: DragonFlame

I played a nearly full art prototype at Protospiel-Madison and I absolutely loved it! This game is designed by Matt Loomis, has artwork from Rob Lundy, and will be launching on Kickstarter soon by Minion Games. The gameplay was engaging and interesting from the very first turn. The artwork was vibrant, colorful, and it really drew me in.

In DragonFlame you are trying to burn down villages and earn points. The gameplay revolves around a fun way of gaining cards. Each player is dealt a hand of cards and in turn order you will place them either face up or face down into new piles. Then each player will choose a pile and those will be the cards they use for that turn. Cards include treasures for scoring points, DragonFlame cards which let you burn villages, and relics that give you special abilities.

Overall I thought DragonFlame was a great game and I recommend you consider backing it when it launches!

Designer’s Corner:

Leading up to Protospiel-Madison I was scrambling to get either The Grand Illusion or Armada Galactica playable and ready. While I had tested The Grand Illusion 4 times I realized that it wasn’t the gameplay experience that the theme deserved. So I basically scrapped it. With my focus solely on Armada Galactica I thought I had something that could come together. I ended up making a few prototype components. I ultimately threw in the towel on that one as well since I had no idea how to actually play the game. I’ll revisit it since I think there’s something there. I just didn’t have enough time to put together a fun working prototype in time for Protospiel-Madison.

So Thursday night before Protospiel I was sitting on the floor in my living room with a ton of prototype pieces and blank cards and tiles and scissors and glue and carte blanche. My new goal was to come up with a brand new game design and prototype it so I could test it during Prototspiel.

Whoops... Should be Sumerians!

Whoops… Should be Sumerians!

So I stole a mechanic from The Grand Illusion, made it 3D, and the design came together. The theme is Ziggurats and you are building one. It has a spatial element and some resource management, but it is basically a points race.

So on Friday afternoon when I arrived at Protospiel I took out my tiles and my sharpies and my blank cards and threw together the prototype. Over the course of the weekend it was tested 4 times to generally positive feedback. I was super pumped by how well the game worked and I’m eager to continue working on it.

The Purpose of Expansions

Carcassonne and several of its expansions. Photo via wordsgoneby.blogspot.com.

Scoville is on the ocean in a container on a massive vessel (info via latest KS update). That’s pretty sweet and it means that the time is rapidly approaching when all of the awesome Kickstarter backers will be able to get Scoville to the table! I couldn’t be more excited.

So naturally I might as well begin work on an expansion (which I playtested last week!). Working on it has brought me to the question of “What is the purpose of an Expansion?” Today I’ll briefly try to address that. Throughout I’ll be using Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride as examples.

From a designer’s perspective here are the three main reasons I think a game should receive an expansion :

  1. Increase Replayability and Variability
  2. Add something new
  3. Add depth

And here are three reasons a publisher may want to publish an expansion (in addition to those above, of course):

  1. Sell more of the original game
  2. Make money at a higher margin since expansions don’t typically cost as much
  3. Provide more quality products to help build your catalog

Obviously the designer reasons and the publisher reasons that I provided are not nearly exhaustive, so take that however you want. I’ll only be covering the reasons for an expansion from the designer’s perspective. At the end I’ll also provide some things that an expansion SHOULD NOT do.

Increase Replayability and Variability

One of the things I like to design into my games is the ability to play it over and over and never have the same experience.I like to define Replayability and Variability thusly:

REPLAYABILITY: When a game can be played over and over again without it feeling old and “samey” despite the setup and game conditions being identical.

VARIABILITY: When a game presents different scenarios for play such that no two plays could ever be identical.

Kingdom Builder – Variable Setup FTW!

Those sound the same and they basically mean the same thing to me. The point is that I do not want to play a game the exact same way it was played prior. That turns the players into robots seeking to find the optimal plays in a game. I prefer games where it is different based on who you are playing with or how the game is designed.

This can be accomplished in several ways but most often via randomness. Sometimes the original design doesn’t receive all the variability the game deserves. Other times the designer comes up with new ways to increase variability after the game is published. Either way, creating an expansion is a great way to bring the game to people’s tables again and make the experience better.

Some of my favorite examples of expansions increasing the replayability/variability of a game are the Carcassonne expansions. (They actually meet all three “expansion” criteria I am mentioning today, so I’ll use this example for each below as well.) The Carcassonne expansions add replayability because they implement situations that are different based on the people you are playing with and based on the tiles you draw.

But perhaps the best instance that I can think of for variability is with the random board setup and scoring conditions from Kingdom Builder. That is one of the most replayable and variable games in my collection and that doesn’t necessarily refer to the expansions.

Add Something New

Add something new… like new routes to Ticket to Ride!

Sometimes a game is deserving of a new addition that changes the game and how it is played. Adding something new to a game can make players want to play it again. It can be a new mechanic, new components, new cards, dice, etc.

Adding something new doesn’t necessarily add depth. Adding new elements can simply make the game enjoyable to play again.

In the Carcassonne world, the Inns and Cathedrals expansion did not really increase depth. Rather, by adding something new it lured gamers to play again and again. The Inns and Cathedrals addition is very minor but it adds enough to change the way people play the game.

Another example is the USA 1910 expansion for Ticket to Ride. Basically it adds a bunch of routes without changing any rules. This is such a simple and smooth expansion to integrate with the base game. Designer’s should keep these sorts of additions in mind with creating expansions.

An easy (actually ridiculously easy) way to expand Scoville is to design a whole bunch of new recipes that utilize previously unused combinations of peppers. This would add something new to the game without changing a single rule. Ironically I hadn’t thought of that until just now, while writing the article. I will be creating 20 new recipes!

Add Depth

Grain, Beer, and Fruit by the Foot!

Often an expansion will provide ways to make a game deeper strategically, tactically, or even thematically. This usually coincides with adding something new. A new mechanic can be added to the game that changes the gameplay or injects depth of decisions. Or perhaps new components are added that add depth via breadth (is that even possible?). I suppose that would be something like instead of limiting the game to four different resources, you could bump it to 6, which could add depth.

The idea behind this reason is to take a game that players have become familiar with and make it deeper. Sometimes players refer to this as “heavier.”

In Carcassonne the Traders and Builders expansion adds notable depth. Players have the objectives of finishing castles such that they earn the bonus tokens of Grain, Beer, and Fruit by the Foot (or maybe grain, wine, and cloth… not sure). This sort of depth adds a distinct layer to the strategy players utilize during the game.

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What Expansions SHOULD NOT do…

I am of the opinion that expansions should not:

  1. Cost more than the base game (Though I suppose an argument could be made for certain situations).
  2. Change the base game so dramatically that it is a completely different thing.
  3. Detract from the original concept of the base game.
  4. Add an overwhelming number of new rules or exceptions to rules.
  5. Modify the original rules.

Not an expansion.

So the simplest way to create an expansion is to simply add some new components like the Ticket to Ride USA 1910 expansion. That expansion did not cost more than the base game. It did not change the base game at all. It did not detract from the original concept. It added zero new rules. And it did not modify the rules. That’s a streamlined expansion.

When expansions violate the 5 points I listed then they start to break away from what I consider an expansion and fall more in line with a whole new game. This would be akin to Ticket to Ride – Europe. The base game is the same but there are new components, new rules, and the original rules were modified enough that this doesn’t meet my criteria for an expansion.

NOTE: Ticket to Ride – Europe was neither marketed nor sold as an expansion.

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So what do you think? What makes an expansion worthwhile to you? What are some of you favorite and least favorite expansions? Thanks for reading!

Monday Brews 10-20-14

I had meant to post a game design article last week but failed to find the time to write it. I’ll be posting that tomorrow instead. But today is Monday so it’s time to recap the Boards & Barley I’ve enjoyed over the last week.

The Barley:

BARLEY SPOTLIGHT: No spotlight this week.

The Boards:

BOARDS SPOTLIGHT: Scoville + Unnamed Expansion

I recently designed a small expansion module for Scoville. I plan to design two or three more such modules. But I had the privilege to test it the other night. It was a lot of fun to work on Scoville again. The module adds another layer to the spatial element of the game, which is already awesome. There were a few interesting things that came from it and I’m pleased with how well it worked. A little tweaking and I might have to send it to TMG!

Apparently I’ve been playing some games with my kids!

Designer’s Corner:

This coming weekend I will be attending Protospiel-Madison. I will have the Scoville expansion with me and I am rapidly working toward having another prototype with me as well. It’s not Quantum Orcas, so breath your collective sigh about that.

It’s a version of Armada Galactica that I think could have some potential. I still have a ways to go to get the prototype ready, but I think it could be a fun game.

I’m also excited to see numerous game designers at the convention. It’ll be nice to see what people are working on.

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That’s it for the Monday Brews. What Boards & Barley have you been enjoying? Stay tuned tomorrow for a fresh game design article!

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